Students experience Wi-Fi problems after $300,000 switch

Bobby Shipman

Some students still experience errors in USI’s Wi-Fi after a vendor switch.

After three years of headaches and frustration resulting from USI’s previous wireless Internet vendor, Enterasys, the university converted to Cisco, a wireless provider that cost the university between $300,000 and $350,000.

“We found the wireless was tremendously unstable,” said Richard Toeniskoetter, Information Technology executive director.

Connections would run too fast or too slow, they would constantly drop and sometimes students couldn’t get back on, he said.

USI already used Cisco for wireless Internet services.

When Cisco and Enterasys began placing blame for malfunctions on one another, Information Technology (IT) brought in a third party to take a look.

They found the problem lied with Enterasys, Toeniskoetter said.

He said that after working alongside Cisco for 12 weeks, they found that the new iOS operating system for Apple devices created a major source of the problem.

“We fixed the way the wireless talked to Apple devices, and that stabilized that problem quite a bit,” Toeniskoetter said. “We removed any 100MB connections and replaced them with 1GB (1000MB), and we looked at where the wireless devices were.”

Other problems included wireless devices that were placed incorrectly on walls and microwaves, disrupting internet connections.

“If somebody cooks popcorn right next to the wireless access point, it could knock out the wireless for everybody in the whole area,” Toeniskoetter said.

He said students should place microwaves away from wireless access points.

One student said she thinks USI’s Wi-Fi has declined since the switch.

“It actually got worse when I moved to the apartments this year,” sophomore elementary education major Taylor VanArsdale said. “In the dorms (last year), it didn’t kick me off. I would lose a little bit of the connection, but it would never completely kick me off like it is doing in the apartments.”

VanArsdale lived in O’Bannon Hall as a freshman, and currently resides in Townsend apartment.

She cannot do tests in her room because the Internet continuously kicks her off, she said.

Apartments and dorms connect to the University Center’s main computer source separately, Toeniskoetter said.

“It is very possible that there are a different amount of outages happening in the dorms than there are in the apartments,” he said.

He advised students who are able to access a wired connection to do so because it will be faster and more stable, particularly when using Blackboard.

He said Blackboard’s errors are not connected to Cisco’s Wi-Fi, but to the Internet Explorer browser and advised using Firefox or Google Chrome instead.

Both browsers are free and fast to download.

Sophomore Larissa Fougerousse, who lives in Jackson, said her internet repeatedly crashes and goes in-and-out.

“If we are, like, doing our homework, we’ll all be like ‘aw man, it just went off’,” the political science major said. “It really hasn’t changed much since last year.”

Any time a student or faculty member calls or emails IT about an Internet problem, they fill out a “trouble ticket” as a record, Toeniskoetter said.

“All of the evidence that we have would suggest that it’s way better than last year,” he said.

He revealed a trouble ticket report Oct. 2, which contained around 15 Wi-Fi malfunctions spanning 14 days.

“Last year, (the report) was wireless, wireless, wireless, wireless; there would be maybe 100 of them in here simultaneously,” he said.

Wireless printers have also become a reoccurring disruption to USI’s Wi-Fi.

“Schools all over the country are trying to figure out what to do about wireless printers,” Toeniskoetter said.

Wireless printers broadcast a bigger signal, which can overlay USI’s wireless signal’s frequency.

Toeniskoetter warned that IT is discouraging wireless printers, and might be forced to ban them if they become too problematic.

“Our wireless is way better than a year ago.  We are not getting anywhere near the volume of complaints,” he said. “We know it’s not perfect.”